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Movida’s Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks

An oldie but a goodie! This recipe hails from MoVida Bar de Tapas restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney, from the cookbook MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures.

It’s a rainy autumn morning, current temperature in Sydney is 11.9 degrees C. I know by northern hemisphere standards that’s positively balmy – but for Sydney it’s distinctly chilly!

So hence the need to revisit this utterly delicious slow cooked beef recipe, made even more delicious by the addition of Pedro Ximinez sherry, that beautiful sweet and caramel tasting liquor. A casserole perfect for a chilly night.

I cooked the beef cheeks in the oven rather than on the stove top as the original recipe suggests. The temperature needs to be low and the cooking time long.  This is slow cooking at its best!

Ingredients 

1.5 kg beef cheeks
125 mls olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 whole garlic bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 mls Pedro Ximenez sherry
500 mls red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 mls water.

Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart. You really need to check the cheeks after 3 hours and continue to check until you’re sure they are really cooked.

The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced. Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce if necessary.

Serve the beef cheeks with pasta, rice, polenta or mash. Anything to soak up that delicious sauce.

Pear and Sour Cherry Loaf

What to do with a couple of over ripe pears? Put them in a loaf of course and add sour cherries for a tangy flavour. And almond extract goes really well with both these ingredients!

A couple of things to say about this loaf. First, it’s an all-in-one loaf, and made in the food processor too. So it’s super simple. Believe me, the all-in-one method produces great results!

Secondly, I have been very interested in the Queen of Baking Mary Berry’s advocacy of baking spread, rather than butter, in cakes. I’ve used baking spread in Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and it produced a lovely textured sponge. So I have used baking spread in this recipe. But by all means, use butter if you prefer, but make sure it’s super soft.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

125g baking spread (I use Nuttelex here in Australia)

2 free range eggs at room temperature

125g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

100g sour cherries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter a 21cm x 10cm loaf tin, or similar size.

Put everything except the cherries into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined. Don’t overdo it or the mixture will be tough.

Stir in the sour cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin before turning out as the loaf is quite fragile while warm.

Serve sprinkled with a little caster sugar. A dollop of cream or yoghurt would be nice – I had some passionfruit curd on hand so I smothered the loaf with a few spoonfuls!

Hearty Beef Pie

I’m on my way back to Sydney from sunny Cairns in far North Queensland. From temperatures of 30 degrees C to a lot less than that in autumnal Sydney!

So here’s a pie recipe that suits colder climes. A hearty pie that is not that difficult to make, with beef and tomato and puff pastry.

This pie has my go-to beef filling, a lovely casserole of slow cooked beef and tomato. And to make it easy, a simple crust of shop bought puff pastry – all butter if you can get it.

It’s rustic – no need to be too fiddly in the presentation!

Ingredients
Beef Filling

500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary

For the pastry – 2 sheets of all butter puff pastry + free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.

Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.

Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful  of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.

Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 2 1/2 – 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove bought puff pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry from each sheet, into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. The bigger round should be at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. The other round will need to cover the top of the pie.

Ease the bottom pastry round into the dish. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.

Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller round of pastry, cutting or stretching to the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.

Serve in big slices with a green salad, your sauce of choice and some crusty bread.

Apple Tart Easy as Pie

Here’s a recipe for a really easy apple tart. True, you do make the sweet shortcrust base. But if you’re pushed for a time just use a good store bought version – here in Australia Careme brand is excellent!

If you do make your own, my recipe is based on the wonderful Michael James’ recipe from “The Tivoli Road Baker”. There’s not much about pastry that Michael doesn’t know.

Apart from the pastry the only work is chopping up apples, so you can put this recipe together in no time at all.

Ingredients

Sweet Pastry

100g unsalted butter, diced and softened

100g caster sugar

1 free-range egg

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

Filling

2 large apples

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method

To make the pastry, in an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together really well. Add the egg then add the flour and salt in two additions. Mix just until the pastry comes together.

Put the pastry onto a floured board and gently knead until it just comes together. It will still be quite soft and even a bit sticky.

Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare your filling by chopping the apples into thin slices. Put them into a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a 23cm 9 inch fluted loose based tart tin.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on the floured board. Roll the pastry to a circle that’s bigger than the tin so the pastry will hang over the sides. Gently press the pastry into the base and sides.

Mix the caster sugar through the apple slices. Place the apple slices in circles around the pastry, doubling up the layers to use all the apple.

Turn the oven down to 180 degrees C. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and if desired, sprinkle with Demerara sugar for extra sweetness.

Serve with cream, sour cream or ice cream or just eat on its own. Simple and delicious.

2022 ANZAC Biscuits

Yesterday, Saturday, I made my annual batch of ANZAC biscuits, that delicious treat associated with Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the First World War, in preparation for ANZAC Day 2022 on 25 April.

The wonderful blog “The Cook and the Curator”, from the team at Sydney Living Museums, has done some research into the origin of ANZAC biscuits.

“There has been much debate as to the origins of the iconic Anzac biscuit, and whether they were sent in care packages to soldiers at war, or if they were made by soldiers at ‘the front’. They were certainly enjoyed by Australians long before the First World War, but under different names.”

Here is the link the the article:https://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/anzac-cookery/ if you would like to know more.

The Cook and the Curator also note that coconut is an optional ingredient and it wasn’t added till the 1930s. By all means add some to to your biscuits, but personally I’m not a fan.

My recipe is based on this authentic recipe, with a small tweak or two.

I add golden syrup, as I love the toffee flavour it imparts. Most recipes do include golden syrup.

Somewhere I read in a recipe that browning the butter after melting it gives a greater depth of flavour. It really does! To compensate for the fact that you lose a little bit of the butter by browning it, I have added another 15g of butter to the recipe.

It really is a straightforward ANZAC biscuit recipe – very easy to put together and quick to bake.

Eat the biscuits on the day they are baked but they will keep well too, if there are any left!

Ingredients

165g salted butter

180g rolled oats

120g plain flour

125g brown sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. 

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Mary Berry’s Caponata

I recently acquired Mary Berry’s Love to Cook – a beautiful book, with delicious and no nonsense recipes written with Mary’s trademark common sense.

I also recommend from this book Mary’s Victoria Sponge Sandwich – it is gorgeous and a doddle to make!

But this post is all about Caponata, a Sicilian vegetable dish based on eggplant – well that’s what we call them in Australia – Mary of course refers to them as aubergines.

A simple dish that takes about half an hour to make on the stove top.

I wouldn’t presume to alter Mary’s recipe, so here it is. However I did make a half size version in the photos, as I was cooking for one – me! But this size would do two easily.

I also used green olives rather than black, as I prefer them.

Quantities below are for the full size recipe.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

2 aubergines (eggplants) cut into 2cm cubes,

2 onions, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm cubes

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

500g passata

100g pitted black (or green) olives

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1½ tablespoons caster sugar

Method

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add half of the aubergine cubes and fry until browned. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set aside. Heat another 3 tablespoons of the oil and fry the remaining aubergine. Set aside with the rest.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery and pepper and fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Return the aubergine to the pan, add the passata, olives, vinegar, capers and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are soft but not mushy.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread, couscous or as a vegetable side dish.

Meringue Kisses

I whipped up a batch of meringues yesterday to serve at an Easter brunch. Very easy, and the recipe doesn’t require too many ingredients.

Serve the meringues on their own or sandwich together with whipped cream and serve with fresh raspberries.

Ingredients

2 free range egg whites at room temperature

A pinch of salt

115g caster sugar

Red food colouring

Whipped cream to fill, raspberries and icing sugar to serve.

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C.

Whisk the egg whites and salt on low speed until frothy and they form peaks which hold their shape.

On medium speed, add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy, about 3 minutes.

For plain meringues, spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle, whatever size you want your meringues to be. Or just pipe straight from the bag!

For pink striped meringues, fit a nozzle, if using, into a piping bag, then paint vertical stripes of food colour with a pastry brush.

Fill the piping bag with the meringue mixture.

For plain or pink meringues, pipe meringues onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Place tray into the oven and bake for 1 hour, then turn oven off and leave to cool for several hours.

Lovely on their own, or sandwich together with whipped cream and serve with raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Easter Egg Rocky Road

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Easter is upon us! Already thinking that you might end up with too many Easter eggs? Well here is a lovely idea to use up that excess chocolate.

Rocky Road is always great if you want to throw a few delicious ingredients into some melted chocolate – nuts, marshmallows, glacé fruit all work well.

Easter Egg Rocky Road is a perfect recipe to include mini Easter eggs, and as well you could smash up some bigger eggs too!

Easter Rocky Road is simple – you can add pretty much what you feel like at the time.

Here’s what I did.

Easter Egg Rocky Road

Melt a 200g block of dark chocolate and a 200g block + half a block of white chocolate. Pour into a tin lined with foil, dark on one side and white on the other. Leave a little of each chocolate for splattering.

Using a skewer, run some pink food colouring through the white chocolate.

Place as many as you like of the following in the melted chocolate – pink and white marshmallows, Smarties or M and Ms, mini Easter eggs.

I scattered some freeze-dried raspberry powder over the Rocky Road too.

Splatter or drizzle the left-over dark chocolate on the white side and the white chocolate on the dark side.

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Lemon Chicken Traybake

I love a simple recipe that’s quick to prepare and doesn’t take much effort. Well this is a no-brainer.

Everything in a baking dish and cooked for an hour. That’s it. Simple. And very tasty!

Writing this recipe has actually taken me longer than preparing it. Simple.

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

8 shallots

4 new potatoes

4 chicken thigh fillets, on the bone

8 artichoke hearts in brine

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

1 generous tablespoon pomegranate molasses (you can substitute balsamic vinegar)

Rock salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon honey

1 lemon finely sliced

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.

Peel the garlic and slice into chunky slivers. Peel the shallots and half the larger ones, leave smaller ones whole. Chop the new potatoes into quarters.

Place these ingredients into a large bowl. Add the chicken thigh fillets and the artichoke hearts. Pour over the olive oil, the lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar. Grind rock salt and black pepper liberally over everything. Stir the whole lot to make sure everything is well coated with the oil, lemon juice and molasses.

Put everything into a large baking dish. Make sure the chicken pieces aren’t covered with the vegetables. Drizzle the honey over the chicken thighs. Scatter the lemon slices over the dish.

Bake for about an hour in the preheated oven, turning the temperature down to 180 degrees after 10 minutes, and at 30 minutes do a quick baste with the pan juices.

After an hour the chicken should be brown and sticky. Give it another 5 minutes if you think it needs it.

Take out of the oven and you’re ready to serve! Because you’ve got potatoes inside the tray bake you don’t need any rice or pasta! Just a lovely green salad. And maybe some crusty sourdough bread.

Hot Cross Buns 2022

I really look forward to baking hot cross buns each Easter. And each Easter I try a new recipe or tweak one of my old ones. They’re all delicious – I’ve never met a hot cross bun I didn’t like!

So I’m a bit late this year, but I will be making the 2022 version later this week.

But in the meantime, here are the links to my favourite hot cross buns, from the experts from the Great British Bake-off, to Jamie Oliver and Paul Hollywood, to my own sourdough version.

So long as the buns are beautifully baked a deep golden brown and served with lashings of butter, you can’t go wrong.

Great British Bakeoff Hot Cross Buns: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2019/04/19/hot-cross-buns-great-british-bake-off/

A great recipe with lots of fruit and spice including an apple.

Jamie Oliver Inspired Hot Cross Buns: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2016/03/26/hot-cross-buns-jamie-oliver-inspired/

I like this recipe with stem ginger in the original bread mix plus cranberries as well as sultanas in the fruit.

Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2015/04/03/paul-hollywoods-hot-cross-buns/

A bit more work with this recipe with 3 provings but a great resulting flavour.

Sourdough Hybrid Hot Cross Buns:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2021/03/23/sourdough-hybrid-hot-cross-buns/

If you have a sourdough starter, my recipe makes a delicious hot cross bun with a beautiful flavour!

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